To Write or Not To Write

Wild Geese
 by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The poem “Wild Geese,” which I ran across most recently in the blog Pause, must be one of Mary Oliver’s most beloved and most frequently quoted from poems. Obviously, it touches a common cord in many people.

No matter how many times I run across that poem, it hits me anew, meaning different things, depending on my circumstances, but always reaching that part of me that feels separate from the rest of the world.

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” — Chanel

I saw that Chanel quote in Theodora Goss’s blog post “Thinking About Chanel”. Theodora agreed with this quote to a point but also concludes that “sometimes you need to break through the wall and turn it into a door, and sometimes that is indeed possible. So just keep the possibility in mind.”

So maybe I can make a little suburban yard appear to be country acreage?

One of the things I’ve been pondering lately is my writing aspirations. I don’t seem to actually want to write and publish a book. Otherwise, wouldn’t I have written one by now?

I most enjoy writing whatever comes to mind, when it comes to mind, and be done with it – the way I can on a blog or in an essay.

To write a book takes focus, planning, organization, sticking to the story, putting in lots of time on it, and then reworking the draft when it’s finally done.

Trying to publish leads to a whole new set of demands and frustrations. Then there is the attempt to actually market the book and get people to buy it.

All too frequently, writing a book leads to rejection and having a pile of papers in a box under your bed. Even if the book is successful, most people have to have a second job to get by. 
Most book writers write because they can’t not write, and publishing a book will get their creation out into reader’s hands and it can all be very wonderful when it works out.

I write for those same reasons, but it has nothing to do with the desire to write a book. For me, writing a book is a way to make something positive come out of a crappy event in my life.

I couldn’t find enough time to write a book while I was married. The plan was to retire next year, and then I could write during the day without causing problems. Of course not writing caused it’s own set of problems, like resentment.

Now, I can spend my time however I want to. I can write the book I wanted to write 11 years ago. But I keep changing my mind about which book to write and so the writing goes nowhere.

Writing is so many things to me:

  • A record to remember where I’ve been and how far I’ve come, 
  • A way to find humor in hard times.
  • A way to entertain people, which makes me feel happy.
  • A way to figure things out by exploring ideas and feelings.
  • A way of talking myself out of stinkin’ thinkin’.
  • A way of sharing stories and finding common human experiences — that connection to people that I long for.

That’s some of what writing is to me is. While a book is something that can stand up and dance and declare that I’m exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I was meant to do, because Look! See! A book has been born!

I have this crazy idea that writing a book might open up a new world and a new life, or it might not do anything at all, but there is some kind of hope in the possibility.

Maybe I just think it will mean my life meant something. That I did something. That maybe something I wrote would be read and touch someone, and then all the hurt would somehow turn into something maybe not good, but okay.

Boy, it took me a lot of words to explain that, which probably means something in itself.

“the world offers itself to your imagination”

I keep trying different things in hopes of finding a way of being that is better.  Of course, that’s talking about “doing” again, rather than “being”. But I keep hoping a switch will be turned, something will click, and I’ll feel without a doubt that I’m on the right path.

I feel as though I’ve become tiresome, doing this same old song and dance, and a few have already left the  dance floor. I don’t know what I’m going to do to quit going in circles. I’m hoping to rethink a few things, refocus some, and hopefully you’ll see some changes soon.

There is an unseen life that dreams us.  It knows our true direction and destiny.  We can trust ourselves more than we realize and we need have no fear of change.  ~John O’Donohue

Similar Posts


  1. Great post. Love all your book covers and thoughts! (Not to mention the photographs)…. Don’t know which one I would read first!

  2. Thoughtful post Maery. I of course like the last cover best. If the pattern you’re trying to break out of is focusing on the past, maybe spending so much time documenting it isn’t helping you right now? I know, tough choice. I walked away from my writing a couple years ago now and it was in some ways a difficult decision, in many ways, a relief. I tell myself it will always be there when I feel ready to take it up again, if I ever do.

  3. A wonderfully written and illustrated post. Your head is filled with many great ideas, the book covers show that.

    I think many time we don’t go for ‘it’ ’cause of the fear. Success changes things and shakes us outta our comfort zone. I retired from Special Ed. to push my Children’s books and then elder care set in with parents and things got pushed into the closet. Here I sit…I really don’t have an excuse except for fear maybe. There’s the time involved, rejection letters, rewrites and here we go again. Silly huh?

    You are very gifted both in writin’ and in your poems. I’m not just tootin’ air in your horn either. When the time is right…you’ll know it. I can’t help but think you’d be a grand success.

    God bless and enjoy your day sweetie!!! :o)

  4. Ha! I love that you took the time to make book covers. The book thing is interesting. I too struggle with finding the time and mental space for it, amid the writing work that pays the bills.

    It’s interesting that @PsuedoSu talks about the dangers of looking back. I can see how that might bog you down, but I can also see how if you illustrate the stepping stones that got you to where you are and WILL GET YOU to where you are going … then that could be a good thing.

    Once when I made a very big decision in my career, I kept a little journal (which I don’t often do) so that I could remember that once I was brave.

    There are many times in your past that you’ve been brave. What are those lessons and how can you use them now? That, to me, seems like the biggest question.

  5. Your writing now…and beautifully. Guess it’s a matter of how large you want your audience to be.

    Your photography is great, too.

  6. Every time I read one of your posts, I feel such admiration for you and a tinge of disappointment in myself. You are so talented and have so many different areas of interest, you almost need to be several people. You will always write. Of this I am certain. You will always touch people in a profound way. Of this I am certain. This is only a chapter in your life and the ending is many pages away. You are a beautifully complicated tortured gentle soul who has dealt with quite a few demons and you’re still holding the sword. Hang in there. I wish I had answers.

  7. Lori – Kind of matches my problem of not knowing what to write first, although I’m leaning towards current events.

    Sue – I’m kind of leaning towards the last book cover too since that’s what is coming easiest as evidenced by the blog. I could have my abbreviated version for the blog and use the lengthy version I can’t put in the blog post for use in a book. I’m not in a strong enough place to deal with the way past. Too much victimy stuff comes up and does bad things to me.

    Nezzy – Interruptions take their toll. I experienced being sandwiched between depressed child and sick, dependent mother that took me on a seven year writing break. But as I’ve told you before, you need to do a book girl! It would be way humorous and sell tons. You have so many followers who would buy it and tell their friends and family. No fear! Or fear but do it anyway.

    Roxanne – It is hard to write all day for your “real” job and then try to get the writing you really want to do going in your so called leisure time. I haven’t figured out the balance on that but I know people do it. I was thinking that getting all the past stuff dealt with would clear the way for the present but I found that the degree of being a victim and the depression and helplessness that I went through is not good to dredge up when I have other struggles. Bits of it will play into what I write about but as a backdrop, not the focus. Maybe when I’m stronger.

    Jill and Sally – Thanks for hanging in there with me. I appreciate the comments.

    Kathleen – You sell yourself way short! I think you are a great writer, a super friend, and very inspirational and encouraging to others. You should try some of those words of wisdom on yourself. If you ever do think about writing, I could see a book of Kathleen’s daily wisdom, presented with your unique sense of humor.

Comments are closed.